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“Banning The Box” on College Applications

Move to “Ban the Box” in Higher Education, including SUNY Schools, Continues to Gain Ground

beyond-the-box-stat1The move to encourage colleges nationwide, including those in New York, to re-evaluate questions pertaining to an applicant’s criminal history continues to gain ground – with recent developments and media attention shedding some much-needed light on this important issue. With an estimated 70 million Americans having some form of a criminal record, many experts are concerned with the consequences faced by prospective students who have prior convictions (often for minor crimes) – many of whom are opting out of the college application process due to fear that disclosing their prior conviction will be a barrier to their college acceptance.

The growing movement to “Ban the Box” in higher education was recently the focus of an important story in The Atlantic – addressing many of the issues being faced by students today who may be less likely to complete the application due to having to check the box to acknowledge their criminal history, as well as having to provide supplemental material that is required for applicants with a criminal conviction. The story references the recent “Boxed Out” report that concluded that 62.5 percent of SUNY applicants who disclosed a prior felony conviction never completed their applications, compared with 21 percent of applicants with no criminal record.

In recent weeks, the Obama Administration also became even more involved with the issue of banning the box in higher education – with the Department of Education and Education Secretary John B. King Jr. reaching out to colleges and universities throughout the country with a new guide on the issue. As noted in a New York Times article, the guide, “Beyond the Box: Increasing Access to Higher Education for Justice Involved Individualsfollows Obama Administration efforts “aimed at reversing policies that limit the opportunities available to people with criminal records” – making specific recommendations such as “clearly informing potential students as early as possible in the application process about how to respond to questions about their criminal pasts” and “ensuring that such questions are narrowly focused, avoiding overly broad requests about criminal history.”

Advocates continue to work to prohibit criminal history questions on college applications – with many advocates noting these questions hurt more than they help, and reiterating that criminal backgrounds and past convictions should not have an impact on the college application process for ex-offenders. In New York, in particular, efforts to ban the box in higher education are continuing to move forward — SUNY students recently rallied against the practice and the SUNY board of trustees organized a public hearing on the issue. And just as the “Ban the Box” movement in workplace hiring has made tremendous strides across the country in recent years (with New York City joining more than 100 other cities and 17 states that have passed similar “ban the box” laws), it is hoped that those seeking to better themselves through higher education will no longer have to face the barriers of a past conviction when applying to colleges in every city and state across the country.

Keep checking back here for further developments on the “Ban the Box” initiative in higher education both in New York and nationwide, and for additional breaking news on the status of criminal record sealing in New York. In addition, for questions about expungement and criminal record sealing in New York, as well as information about conditional record sealing after drug treatment, contact Rick Collins at [email protected] or call him at 516-294-0300.

To read the recent articles on the “Banning the Box” in college applications, including the recent news surrounding the U.S. Department of Education’s new “Beyond the Box” guide, click here:

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